Don't be Afraid of the Dark

Guillermo del Toro conjures up a hi-def house of tiny horrors

When a young girl (Bailee Madison) is forced to move in with her father (Guy Pearce) and his new girlfriend (Katie Holmes) in a spooky old home they’re restoring, she isn’t exactly thrilled by the idea. But things get even worse when she starts hearing voices calling her name and seeing little creatures running around the building.

This remake of a ‘70s US TV movie has apparently been a pet project of filmmaker Guillermo del Toro for the best part of 15 years. While he’s only onboard as writer and producer in the finished version, it’s easy to find thematic links with del Toro other movies – even if this particular chiller doesn’t entirely measure up to his best.

Picture: Given the title, it’s hardly surprising that Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark’s palette is largely made up of various shades of black. As such, it’s crucial that this Blu-ray’s presentation is capable of maintaining the standard of clarity and delineation necessary. And while there are a handful of moments where black crush rears its head, that is exactly what the disc’s AVC 1.85:1 1080p encode does – finding and highlighting every tiny detail in almost every single shot.

That said, the film doesn’t entirely shy away from colour, splitting itself between warm autumnal hues for the interior of the house and colder blues and greens outside. All of which the hi-def encode also handles with ease.
Picture rating: 4/5

Audio: The film comes to Blu-ray with a DTS-HD MA 5.1 track and a 2.0 LPCM stereo mix for those without a surround sound setup. Those in the latter camp really will be missing out here, as Don’t Be Afraid... sports extremely accomplished sound design that makes good use of the entire 5.1 soundstage, with skittering footsteps and whispering calls of the creatures flitting around the speakers courtesy of beautifully crafted panning effects. Elsewhere there’s also some tight and hefty bass employed in the soundtrack, accompanying the camera as it prowls around the house and its passageways.
Audio rating: 5/5

Extras: Damn those pesky little homunculi! It appears that with nothing else to occupy their time, they’ve only gone and nicked most of this disc’s bonus material. At least, that’s the only excuse I can think of for why this Blu-ray platter is so poorly served in this area.

All that’s on offer are a trio of very short promo featurettes (The Story, The Build and The Creatures), three lightweight Character Profiles and a pair of trailers. Not exactly the plethora of bonus content we’ve come to expect from a Guillermo del Toro production.
Extras rating: 2/5

We say: This enjoyable creature feature looks and sounds great in HD, but is lacking in extras

StudioCanal UK, Region B BD, £23 approx, On sale now